Before a solar energy system can be installed, it is essential to conduct thorough research, planning and investigative work to determine the feasibility and the most appropriate solar solution for your site. New Southern Energy’s expertise covers all aspects of the development process. Development work includes a thorough assessment of the land or roof, assessment of the existing electricity infrastructure to which the system will need to be connected, identification of regulatory requirements and the management of various stakeholders as well as determining the viability of the project itself.
New Southern Energy uses a matrix to determine the feasibility of a solar plant so that we can guide you from a position of information. If we believe that developing a system is not feasible for your site, we will advise you accordingly.
With a strong emphasis on thoroughness, we aim to build solar systems that will have maximum impact and yield the highest possible benefits to our clients.
Renewable energy solar plants are generally feasible under these conditions:
- If you have a high energy base load during the day, i.e. you use a lot of energy during day time
- If you use energy seven days a week
- If you currently pay more than R 1 per KW hour (on average)
- If you have available space for a solar plant, for example on your roof of land
- If you have good solar irradiation onto that area
All of the above aspects are assessed in the initial stage. If you site scores highly across these five aspects, it is probably a good candidate for a solar system. However, this will be studied in detail for your project specifically.
Roof & Surroundings Assessment
It is essential to assess the surroundings of the roof for shading, to ensure minimal shade throughout the day. In doing so, we also assess the roof itself, including the type of roof, structural components, the layout, access points, how we can route the cables from panels to inverters and the materials used in construction. Accessibility to roof systems is important for cleaning and maintenance of the system. Therefore, this aspect will be considered at this stage.
For potential ground-mounted systems, a ground assessment is needed. During this process, different ground assessments apply depending on the technology being deployed. For example, you could be looking to install a fixed mount system (where the panels don’t move) or a tracker system (in which the panels move, tracking the sun for optimized production during the day). Ideally, we aim for land where there is minimal rock in the layout, not too much shading and sufficient in size so that there can be space between the cables and panels.
Additionally, the New Southern Energy team will assess the routing options for components such as cables and routers.
Given that a solar plant is a form of power system, we usually recommend putting a fence around a ground-mounted system both for the security of your equipment, and to keep any animals or humans at a safe distance. All solar plants should have a form of access control. Inverters need to be kept safe from exposure to the elements. Therefore, during our assessment, we consider and advise on this aspect as well.
While all solar plants have unique aspects, most systems tend to be grid tied, meaning that they are connected to the electrical grid. The solar system we construct will also be connected to your existing electrical system.
The inverters in solar systems operate within a certain band of tolerance for certain operating parameters such as grid voltage, harmonic frequency, reactive currents, peaks, and troughs. It is essential, in the early stages, to assess the harmony between the various phases because if the harmonics are too far out, or too deviant, the inverters will automatically switch off.
Therefore, a solar system can only connect to the grid if the grid in that area operates within certain bands. New Southern Energy will assess the variables across the current grid, help identify any problems in the local grid and endeavour to find solutions. We will help stabilize the harmonics so that your system can connect to the grid effectively.
Our development work regarding stakeholders includes consultation with electricity suppliers such as Eskom or the municipality, as well as the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) both of whom would need to approve the system. It is important to note that systems over a certain size necessitate additional approval processes.
The South African electrical grids operate at the highest standards. There is a thorough process to ensure that any solar system complies with various requirements, be that with the grid supplier (usually Eskom or the local municipality), the regulator (NERSA), or financiers who often have their own requirements that require engagement and the provision of detailed information. New Southern Energy will help answer all their concerns when the design is assessed.
Depending on the size and location of the system, an environmental impact assessment may be required to ensure that we comply with area specific requirements. If a system is being financed, there may be further requirements.
New Southern Energy’s team will ensure that all relevant stakeholders in the project have been consulted, and that approval is obtained prior to construction. Further, New Southern Energy provides solar advice based on our experience in renewable energy projects across Africa.